Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This study examined predictors of changes in children's sexual behaviors across two time points within a sample of youth in the child welfare system. Hypothesized predictors of increases or decreases in children's sexual behaviors included child attributes, positive parenting, exposure to sexuality and violence, maltreatment history and child welfare placement history, and treatment variables. Participants included 145 children with reported sexual behavior problems and their primary caregivers and mental healthcare providers. Children's sexual behaviors were classified as improved, worsened, or unchanged. Optimal Data Analysis (ODA) and multivariate classification tree analysis (CTA) via ODA were used to identify predictors of children's classification status and to form subgroups of youth based on interactions between predictors. Results indicated that child functioning (i.e., internalizing and externalizing symptoms) and treatment variables (e.g., sex education) were significant predictors of children's classification status. Post-hoc analyses revealed differences between subgroups with regard to child variables and therapist theoretical orientation. These results highlight associations between internalizing and externalizing symptoms and children's sexual behaviors, as well as the benefits of including education in clinical services for children with sexual behavior problems. Future research should continue to examine the appropriateness of various treatment approaches for children with specific symptom presentations.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.